BIG BEAR, Calif. — The extraordinary manhunt for the former Los Angeles police officer suspected of three murders converged Tuesday on a mountain cabin, where authorities engaged in a shootout that ended with the building going up in flames.
The body, which was found in the charred rubble of the cabin, was not positively identified as Christopher Dorner, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing an unnamed source. The process of making a determination whether the body is that of the former Los Angeles Police Department officer could take hours or even days, the Times reported.
As authorities moved into the cabin earlier Tuesday, they heard a single gunshot.
Police had broken down windows, fired tear gas into the cabin and blasted over a loudspeaker urging Dorner to surrender, the Times said, quoting an unnamed law enforcement official. When they got no response, police deployed a vehicle to rip down the walls of the cabin, a law enforcement official said.
By the time they got to the last wall, authorities heard a single gunshot, the official said. Then flames began to spread through the structure, and gunshots, probably set off by the fire, were heard.
If the man inside proves to be Dorner, the search for the most wanted man in America over the last week would have ended the way he had expected — death, with the police pursuing him.
A San Bernardino County deputy was killed and another officer was wounded in a gun battle with the suspect Tuesday.
Thousands of officers had been on the hunt for the former Navy reservist since police said he launched a campaign to exact revenge against the Los Angeles Police Department for his firing. They say he threatened to bring "warfare" to officers and their families, spreading fear and setting off a search for him across the Southwest and Mexico.
"Enough is enough. It's time for you to turn yourself in. It's time to stop the bloodshed," LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said at a news conference held outside police headquarters in Los Angeles, a starkly different atmosphere than last week when officials briefed the news media under tight security with Dorner on the loose.
A short time after Smith spoke Tuesday, smoke began to rise from the cabin in the snow-covered woods near Big Bear Lake, a resort town about 80 miles east of Los Angeles. Flames then engulfed the building — images that were broadcast on live television around the world. TV helicopters showed the fire burning freely with no apparent effort to extinguish it.
"We have reason to believe that it is him," said San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cynthia Bachman, adding that she didn't know how the fire started. She noted there was gunfire between the person in the cabin and officers around the home before the blaze began.
Until Tuesday, authorities didn't know whether Dorner was still near Big Bear Lake, where they found his burned-out pickup last week.
Around 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, deputies got a report of a stolen pickup truck, authorities said. The location was directly across the street from where law enforcement set up their command post on Thursday and not far from where Dorner's pickup was abandoned. The owner of the vehicle taken Tuesday described the suspect as resembling Dorner.
A warden for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife traveling down Highway 38 recognized a man who fit Dorner's description traveling in the opposite direction. The officer pursued the vehicle, and there was a shooting at 12:42 p.m. in which the wildlife vehicle was hit numerous times and the suspect ran away after crashing the truck.
After holing up in the cabin, there was a second gunbattle with San Bernardino County deputies, two of whom were shot. One died, and the other was expected to live.
Police say Dorner began his run on Feb. 6 after they connected the slayings of a former police captain's daughter and her fiance with an angry Facebook rant they said he posted. Threats against the LAPD led officials to assign officers to protect officers and their families.
Dorner's anger with the department dated back at least five years, when he was fired for filing a false report accusing his training officer of kicking a mentally ill suspect. Dorner claimed in the rant that he was the subject of racism by the department and was fired for doing the right thing.
"You're going to see what a whistleblower can do when you take everything from him especially his NAME!!!" his rant said. "You have awoken a sleeping giant."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.